Time to start planning next year's adventures.
If Google’s 2016 trend report is any indication (and we think it is), travelers have taken a serious interest in do-it-yourself travel this year: flying solo, ride sharing, online booking, road ripping, and the great peer-to-peer behemoth, Airbnb.
Google has just revealed the year’s top "trending" queries—the searches that had the highest spike in traffic over a sustained period in 2016 as compared to 2015—and we’ve taken note. Here are the most popular, in-vogue travel experiences of the year (the U.S. National Parks and wellness retreats, for example), and how to check them off your to-do list at the top of 2017.
Bucket List Travel
Even Travel + Leisure editors keep bucket lists. From watching the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland to taking an incredible elephant yoga class (yes, that’s a thing) there are some experiences that travelers have to do, at least once, in a lifetime. Looking to add to your personal travel bucket list? Consider these 25 next-level itineraries, or a tailor-made journey.
The end of the year is probably the best time to relax, unwind, and prepare for a fresh start. Consider an ever-popular spa vacation, like a spiritual retreat in Uttarakhand, India (expect Tibetan healing and a personalized healing experience) or a stress-reducing digital detox.
According to a recent study, nearly a quarter of travelers took a solo trip overseas last year. And so it’s no surprise that independent, or solo travel, is gaining popularity. If you’re taking your first trip alone, refer to our must-do list: master the art of people watching, take yourself on a date, join a tour group, and keep a journal. It’s also smart to begin solo trekking in famously safe and friendly countries.
Even Google is getting into the ride sharing game, thanks to the exponential popularity of carpooling, ride hailing, and on-demand car service. Depending on where you are, ride sharing can be a major money saver. At the very least, it’s a way to minimize your impact on the environment.
No longer an automatic turn-off to discerning travelers, group tours have become increasingly sophisticated. Tour operators and guides know that offering exclusive access and insider-information can make all the difference between a snooze-worthy bus trip and an incredible, life-changing experience. Examples: getting underneath Rome’s Colosseum and backcountry skiing in the Grand Tetons.
Perhaps it’s the low gas prices (or, conversely, skyrocketing airfares). But 2016 was a big year for road trips. And we couldn’t agree more. Getting behind the wheel is great way to see easy-to-miss attractions and scenic stretches of your destination you’d miss arriving by plane. Ready to try this trend yourself? Consider tackling one of the best road trips in the United States, or visit 47 national parks in one epic road trip.
U.S. National Parks
This year, the country’s National Park Service celebrated its centennial, and brought renewed interest to America’s greatest backyards. Join in on the fun by getting to know the incredible diversity of these protected landscapes. Consider a trip to Haleakalā in Hawaii, or try to visit all 412 parks in the nation (some 44 people have already done it).
Making travel reservations online—be it desktop or mobile—can help you save time and money. Not sure where to start? Check out the best apps and websites for scoring hotel deals, cheap flights, and even better seats.
Just because you’re short on time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel. We’ve crafted full-proof itineraries for the perfect weekend in destinations across the United States (Denver, the Catskills, Miami). There’s even a travel startup dedicated to surprising travelers with long-weekend trips to domestic destinations you might otherwise overlook. More good news? Taking a three-day weekend can save the planet by minimizing your carbon footprint.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the No. 1 travel trend of 2016 was Airbnb, the vacation rental site that has catapulted from scrappy start-up to a major force in the travel space. If you’re just dabbling in the peer-to-peer space, keep in mind our tips for being the perfect Airbnb guest.